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Disabled Students Need More Social Learning, Ohio State Study Finds

School desks
Federal law requires disabled students to be placed in class with their nondisabled peers.

Federal law requires students with disabilities to spend as much time as possible in general education classrooms, but a study from Ohio State University has found that’s not happening in Ohio, or the rest of the country.

The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires students with disabilities be placed in general education classrooms with their nondisabled peers “to the maximum extent appropriate” to encourage social learning.

But Matt Brock with Ohio State University says across the country, that’s not the case. In a recent study, Brock found that the number of students with disabilities who were placed in gen ed classrooms increased in the 1990s and early 2000s, but have since stagnated.

“The other things I was surprised to see is that in any year for the past 40 years, the overwhelming majority of kiddos with intellectual disabilities have spent most or all of their time in segregated settings," said Brock.

And he says segregating students prevents learning.

“You don’t have opportunities to practice social skills in authentic settings, you don’t have opportunities to build friendships with people without disabilities," he said.

Brock says nondisabled students also miss out on important lessons about acceptance and inclusion that have an impact on entire communities.